The original intent of this column has been focused on making legal practitioners aware of how changes in technology affect our profession and ethical responsibilities. I take a quick departure from that goal, but not really, to discuss a new TV series on CBS entitled “Bull” I am a fan of actor Michael Weatherly previously on “N.C.I.S.” and a fan of using courtroom science in appropriate litigation situations. However, I am not a fan of Bull.
My take away from the first episode was the mischaracterization and minimalizing of the lawyer’s role with the client and the clear trampling upon of our profession’s standing by the writers. The thought that your trial consultant’s input is more important to your client’s case than an attorney’s professional advice is a theme developed throughout each storyline thus far, and is typically overtly demonstrated by the character’s dialogue. The character, Dr. Jason Bull, apparently has the ability to replace or subjugate any lawyer his client has retained either previously or in the future. Additionally, attorney work product privilege and ethical consideration seem to have no bearing as Dr. Jason Bull can change sides in a case that he has been retained in after he decides which party is worthy of his efforts.
Next up on my criticism hit list is the entire premise of the show is off-putting. Apparently U.S. citizens who have been taught and told that one of the fundamental hallmarks of the American way that makes our country different is our civil justice system, have been duped. According to Bull’s storylines, we as citizens serving on juries, are nothing but puppets to be manipulated by Dr. Bull and his minions. Regardless of the entertainment value, the show reminds viewers every week that when you are in a lawsuit, justice doesn’t matter, your lawyer doesn’t matter and jurors are to be manipulated such that justice prevails only to the manipulators. Great thoughts for the non-lawyering public to hold about lawyers and the civil justice system, right?
The entertainment value is average to above average primarily because of the use of technology to measure juror and shadow juror responses, but I cannot get beyond my lawyer eyeglasses on this show’s inherent flaws. I am not a fan of the messages that are being sold to the viewing public by this new series. Moreover, in a recent episode set in a fictitious Texas venue where stealing your opponents notes, strategy and playing every local good old boy trick in the book including getting the other side drunk before closing statements is just playing by the rules of the game. It is also ok to manipulate the courthouse elevators with jurors in them so as to demonstrate the points of your closing statement and the county wide weather warning system so that jurors will be forced to go in a basement where they can overhear rehearsed statements otherwise not admissible in court.
Sure, I am a believer in knowing your venue, effective voir dire, mock trials, focus groups, shadow jurors and creating juror profiles in appropriate cases. Who hasn’t been hometowned at some point in life? I even retain a high quality professional juror and trial consultant when case circumstances and a client’s budget will allow. But this show takes the good part of that technology, such as having data feedback that shows a juror’s bias to your position on an issue with red, yellow and green lights on multiple computer monitors and destroys it with a negative message that potentially impacts the public perception of our profession and the civil justice system. Do jurors now expect shenanigans and manipulation distrusting even the truest of motives? For that reason, I call bull on Bull.
Quickly back on point of our Open & Obvious intended purpose, note that the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct were amended by SCBD 3490 effective immediately that, among other things, in the comment section to Rule 1.1 on Lawyer Competence at note 6 the language concerning maintaining competence includes the terms “including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” So there you have it, get yourself competent.
Back to last month’s article on artificial intelligence, I was thereafter greeted in my inbox by several items I refer you to including “How AI Will Change the Practice of Law”, “Robots in Law: How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Legal Services” and “AI Predicts Outcome of Human Rights Cases”. Researchers claim an artificial intelligence computer system has correctly predicted the outcomes of hundreds of cases heard at the European Court of Human Rights to an accuracy of 79 percent. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
- ABA Law Technology Today, Nicole Black, November 1, 2016. Lawtechnology.org/2016/11/how-ai-will-change-the-practice-of-law-by-nicole-black
- Publishing date November 18, 2015 by Ark Group Publishing USA; http://www.ark-group.com
- bbc.com/news/technology-37727387?source=techstories.org; Jane Wakefield, Technology Reporter, 23 October 2016
Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit www.hbokc.law.